Ridley makes most of second chance after fumble

Ridley makes most of second chance after fumble
November 4, 2013, 12:00 am
Share This Post

FOXBORO -- The Patriots offense seemed to have found its groove until Stevan Ridley did the one thing everyone in Gillette Stadium knew he couldn't do.

He fumbled.

On the fifth play of New England's opening drive in the second half, Ridley caught a short pass along the sideline, Steelers ball-hawking safety Troy Polamalu ripped it out, and Pittsburgh recovered.

Ridley is a running back who has been followed by fumbling issues at different points in his career going back to his college days at Louisiana State University. He's also a player who appeared to be held out of game action for the first quarter in last week's win over the Dolphins.

His third-quarter fumble was the kind of mistake that might land him on the bench for the foreseeable future, it seemed.

But it didn't.

On New England's next drive, Ridley was out there and immediately took a handoff. He ended up finishing the game with 115 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a 55-31 win over the Steelers.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick explained after the game that Ridley's perceived gaffe wasn't necessarily his fault.

"I thought Stevan did a good job," Belichick said. "It was really a tremendous play by Polamalu. He did a great job. Stevan caught the ball with his back to the defender. As he turned, Troy came in there, and instead of making a tackle, he was able to dislodge the ball. He anticipated Ridley turning up and Troy made a good play on it.

"I don't think Stevan really had much of a chance to do anything but turn. Sometimes turnovers are a result of real good defensive plays. Sometimes they're the result of sloppy plays offensively. I would, unfortunately, have to credit that one to Polamalu. He made a great play on it and that's one of this things you have to live with."

Ridley figured significantly into New England's second-half offensive surge, and his five-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter gave the Patriots a 41-24 lead.

"Stevan ran hard like he always does. He always runs hard," Belichick explained. "He's a tough runner. He gets his yards, and he then always gets a few more because of his running style and his toughness and his pad level and getting downhill. He gave us that again. But he pretty much gives us that every week."

Brady was equally appreciative of his running back's hard-nosed style.

"He runs so hard," Brady said. "You give it to him and you have so much confidence that we're going to gain yards on those plays. He runs hard. He has a great spirit and energy about him and what he brings our offense in emotion. When he's confident, it helps our team immeasurably."

Ridley declined comment after the game, but the way he ran, and the way he responded after coughing up the ball in the third quarter, spoke volumes.